The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

The European Championships

Aug 22nd, 2022
2:47 pm PDT

I finished watching the European Championships this past weekend. The last championship meet of what has been a very long championship season. It started here in the US with the NCAA Champs back in June; followed by US Nationals. We then had Worlds, U20, Commonwealth, and Euros. Thanks to modern technology, I’ve been able to watch them all! It’s a pretty good time to be a fan of the sport. After watching all of these high level competitions, I have to say that while Euros was the last one, in many ways it was my favorite. Let me explain.

The NCAA Championships are fun for me, because the competition is usually very good, and I get to see the emerging talent here in the US. This year it was fun watching Abby Steiner and Britton Wilson really come into their own.

US Nationals is just the most cut throat meet on the planet. In at least half the events on the schedule, the competition to make the team is harder than the competition at the World Championships. From day one to the end, there are few meets that can compare competitively. This year’s sprints and hurdles were stellar on both the men and women’s sides. Just awesome.

Worlds is the one meet, that trumps US trials. This is the meet that everyone on the planet points for. The meet where the results and competition are the ultimate. Sydney McLaughlin, Noah Lyles, Mondo Duplantis, Ryan Crouser. Need I say more?

U20 is the global equivalent of the NCAA Championships for me. A chance to see the young talent coming up around the globe. It’s where I first saw Femke Bol compete. This year it was Letsile Tobogo and Blessing Afrifrah. I know they are going to be something special.

Commonwealth, for me, was a filler. No offense to the competitors, but most squads didn’t send their best. And the meet seems more like a training opportunity for a lot of countries/athletes. And that’s ok.

So, the European Championships. Why was it my favorite? Because Europe loves the sport of Athletics! They treat their Championships the way we here in the US treat the Super Bowl! The fans are rabid! They love their athletes. The production of the meet is second to none. It’s run like a Swiss watch. And the telecast is the best on the planet. More cameras. More angles. Multiple replays. With wall to wall field event coverage. Nothing is missed. The BBC announcing crew is the best in the business. While the athletes give every ounce of energy to the competition! It’s the one meet where I watched every minute of the competition – every day. The most enjoyable meet I’ve watched all year.

As I try and figure out how to improve the sport in this country, watching what others do is somewhat of a prerequisite! This should be the first stop for USATF if they are serious about making the sport better in the US. Frankly for World Athletics as well. There is no “time limit” to attention spans. No need to reduce events. Track and field is one of the most exciting sports on the planet. It just needs to be presented properly. Study the Europeans!

That said, there was some very good competition that took place. Here are my favorites

The men’s 100. Not so much a highlight, but of interest because of the players. Specifically Lamont Jacobs who was an easy winner. Of interest because he pulled out of Worlds, after qualifying for the semifinals. And as the Olympic champion, many want to see him compete against the best of the best. Currently, that means the Americans, Caribbeans, and Africans. None of which are in Europe. We will see if he competes in any of the remaining Diamond League events. Though my gut says, I doubt it.

The women’s 100. This was actually a very competitive final. Yes, the best are outside of Europe. But, unlike the men, there were several women that looked to be in contention. The final saw a quick division between the fast starters and the finishers. And in the end, a hundredth of a second covered the first three women. With Gina Luckenkemper (GER) winning in 10.99. Taking a tumble as she learned for the finish. With Darryl Neita (GBR) 10.99, and Mujinga Kambundji (SWI) 11.00. This was as exciting as 100’s get.

Femke Bol (NED). Femke is the European version of Sydney McLaughlin. The European record holder in the 400H (52.03) and number three all time. In Munich she pulled off a rare triple, winning the 400 (49.44), 400H (52.67), and anchoring the winning 4×4 with a sizzling 48.5! Like Karsten Warholm, Femke is a European without peer, so while this is an impressive performance. It’s not likely to be done outside of this format. Was fun to watch however. With Sydney rumored to be considering the open 400, Femke’s performance provides a benchmark for Sydney.

The Women’s Horizontal Jumps. Seven meters is the mark of true elite long jumping. In this competition we had two jumpers over that mark. Gold medalist Ivana Vuleta (SBR) (7.06m/23′ 2″), and silver medalist Malaika Mihambo (GER) (7.03m/23′ 0.75″). Ivana winning on her initial jump and forcing the field to Chase her. In an exciting competition, Maryna Bekh Romanchuk (UKR) was in the bronze position until the final round, when Jazmin Sawyers (GBR) stole the medal from her. Clearly frustrated, Maryna went to her #2 event and, dominated! Setting new PR’s, eventually jumping 15.02m/49′ 3.25″ for gold – and possibly finding herself a new #1 event! As she became only the second fifteen meter jumper on the season.

Mondo Duplantis (SWE). Mondo is a highlight all on his own. He is the rebirth of Sergei Bubka. Though clearly the one and only Mondo. His father, Greg, was a world class vaulter and Mondo has been doing this since he was a child. He’s become the absolute best. Here he simply vaulted a meet record 6.06m (19′ 10.5″). Others begin to struggle around 5.80m (19′ 0.25″) or so. Mondo is just getting warmed up. He’s just fun to watch.

The women’s relays. For sheer excitement, the women’s relays closed down the meet in fine style. The 4×4 showcased some of the meets best athletes. With the Netherlands’ (3:20.87) Lieke Klaver (49.19) and Femke Bol (48.56) leading their squad to victory over a Polish team (3:21.68)anchored by Natalia Kaczmareck (49.28). Bol and Kaczmarek storming from behind on the final lap. The climax of the meet however, was the German women’s quartet of Alexandra Burghardt, Lisa Mayer, Gina Luckenkemper, and Rebekka Hasse claiming victory in the 4×1 in 42.34 in front of their home fans! The crowd went nuts! Poland claimed a national record in second, and Italy got a surprise medal in third. The joy of all the competitors couldn’t have been greater if they each had broken the world record.

That pretty much exemplified the mood of the entire competition. A great week of competition that demonstrated the best of how the sport should be. So, that leaves the remaining Diamond League meets. Next stop, Lausanne. And it looks like it’s going to be loaded.

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